When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident… wasn’t just an accident.
With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?
As soon as I heard about With Malice, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. This blend of crime and an unreliable narrator is honestly one of my favourite things to read about, and there’s something so sinister and so spine-tingling about books like this one. What I’m most surprised about this book was that it mostly takes place in a hospital, yes, there’s a few flashbacks and dubious memories thrown in the mix, and even though our protagonist is lying on a hospital bed most of the time, With Malice still manages to be one of the most thrilling books I’ve read all year. I just couldn’t take my eyes off the pages.
One of the things I loved most about this book was how it was based around the idea that memory is such a fragile, malleable thing that’s capable of either working with you or against you. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this novel was the realisation that we could all be a victim to something similar to what Jill experienced. She wakes up with no recollection of the past month or so, and desperately tries to reclaim her memories to figure out what happened on that fateful night her best friend died. I absolutely loved being taken on this journey with Jill, trying to figure out what really happened and why everyone blamed her for her friend’s death. And the best part was that I was in the dark about what happened as much as Jill was, and we both came to realise crucial pieces of information at the same time. I never could have guessed how this novel would end, but I couldn’t be more pleased. And by pleased, I mean shocked, in awe, and left processing the ending for a few solid hours afterward. I just couldn’t get this book out of my head.
With Malice is a novel that’s driven mostly by its plot and the mystery. Ultimately, the characters weren’t overly memorable and I didn’t particularly feel sympathy for Jill. The only way we got to understand a bit about the characters was through the media’s portrayal of them and through questionable flashbacks and memories. But that’s the thing — I wasn’t really concerned about not having a lot of sympathy for the characters. Sure, there were some people I didn’t like in the novel, but all of that was irrelevant because the plot was so gripping. With Malice isn’t the type of book that you’ll fall in love with because of the characters, it’s one that will envelop you in the mystery and refuse to let you go until the very end. You’ll need to clear up a couple hours in your schedule to read this book, because you won’t want to be interrupted, and you definitely won’t want to stop reading once you begin.
What should have been a strength of this novel was the unique way it was written, but that’s overshadowed by the abundance of books that are choosing to narrate in this format. With Malice is told not only by Jill, but also by police transcripts, interviews, website entries and snippets from a guide book. I think I would have liked that aspect of the book a lot more if I hadn’t seen it used so much before and I understand that it might be appealing for someone who hasn’t read books like Illuminae, The Leaving, and Whisper to Me. Unfortunately, these parts of the novel felt more like telling rather than showing, and I found myself eager to get back to where Jill was narrating, because I found those the most entertaining and thrilling aspects.
With Malice is an enjoyable and captivating read, and the use of an unreliable narrator was clever and kept me on the edge of my seat. While the characters weren’t spectacular or particularly memorable and the ‘unique’ formatting was a little dull at times, I was still utterly enthralled by this novel and I couldn’t put it down. Although this one doesn’t live up to the expectations I’d formed of YA thrillers from unforgettable books such as Dangerous Girls, Dangerous Lies or Black, it was still quite entertaining and worth reading.
Have you read With Malice yet? What’s your opinion on unreliable narrators? Are you a fan of thrillers and mysteries? Have you read many books with a unique formatting like this one, or the others mentioned? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Bonnier / Hot Key Books Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Title: With Malice
Publication date: 27 July 2016
Publisher: Bonnier / Hot Key Books
Australian RRP: $16.99